From Brian Nkiwane in Bujumbura, BURUNDI
Burundi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 2
Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . . (0) 1
The Warriors suffered an early setback when they narrowly lost to Burundi in a 2013 Africa Cup of Nations first round, first leg football qualifier match at Prince Louis Stadium in downtown Bujumbura here yesterday.
The second leg of the qualifiers for the finals to be hosted by South Africa will be played at home in June.
Luady Mavugo put the hosts into the lead in the 46th minute of the match before Germany-based striker Knowledge Musona equalised in the 60th minute.
Former Kaizer Chiefs defender Valery Nahayo of Burundi broke the hearts of the Warriors when he scored the 89th minute goal that gave an advantage to the hosts going into the second leg.
The defeat came after social media was awash with news that Zimbabwe had won the match 2-0 courtesy of “goals” from Musona and Belgium-based defender Vusa Nyoni.
However, all that turned out to be a hoax as the Warriors were edged by the hosts, but Musona’s goal could prove decisive when the two teams clash in the second leg.
The visitors were just unlucky in an afternoon where they created more than a dozen clearcut chances as goals could not come.The match started at a pulsating pace with both teams threatening to overrun each other.
But it was the hosts who took the lead through substitute Mavungo, who capitalised on a defence mix-up between the two Zimbabwean centrebacks Esrom Nyandoro and Arnold Chaka to beat the exposed Warriors captain Tapuwa Kapini.
The Warriors changed the tempo of the game with Musona, Nyoni and Tinashe Nengomasha playing their hearts out in the middle and attack.
They were rewarded on the hour mark when Chaka picked Musona with a defence-splitting pass and Musona did not disappoint as he directed the ball into the net.
The heartbreak for the visitors came in the 89th minute when Nahayo headed home the winner to snatch a much-deserved victory.
Both teams created numerous chances in the first half, but Zimbabwe were the most unlucky side as Musona forced Norway-based Ndikunawa Janvier in goals for Burundi to make a suicidal save in the 19th minute before shooting wide again from a free kick that was awarded after Onismor Bhasera was fouled just outside the box.
Sensing danger, Burundi made their first substitution in the 23rd minute as Masumbuko Dennis Kalala made room for the first goalscorer, Loudi.
Bhasera got to the end of a Musona cross on the left flank, but his stunner hit the crossbar in the 34th minute.
Warriors coach Rahman Gumbo saluted his charges: “The boys played well. Imagine creating those chances away from home. We lost concentration along the way and most of our guys are no longer used to playing 90 minutes.
“If asked to do the preparations for the return leg, I will be more than happy because I now know my opponents better.”
Goalscorer Musona said : “I will be off-season when we play the second leg hence we will have enough time to prepare. I had problems with my legs at first. They were heavy because I travelled through out the whole night.”
The team that did duty here was selected from a shallow pool of players after the Zimbabwe Football Association banned 99 players who were fingered in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal. Among the regular players who were suspended for this match were midfilder Ovidy Karuru, winger Khama Billiat and coach Norman Mapeza.
T Kapini, T Kumbuyani, O Bhasera, E Nyandoro, A Chaka, T Nengomasha, V Nyoni, M Sibanda, A Gutu, K Musona, M Mguni (T Mandaza 33rd) minute.
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